French cinema collective UniFrance has taken a stand against the rather swift backlash against French director Maïmouna Doucouré and her coming-of-age drama, Cuties. On Friday, the group threw its support behind the filmmaker and the project in response to a flood of vocal detractors—many of which proudly admit that they have not seen the film—who accuse Cuties and those involved of hypersexualizing young girls. In a memo that was shared with the French film industry, the group offered “its full support” and spoke highly of Doucouré’s work, per The Hollywood Reporter:
Over the past several weeks, we have been closely following the exceptionally violent reaction to the film in the United States, during a presidential election campaign in full swing. In this context, UniFrance and all of its members wish to pledge their full support to Maïmouna Doucouré and to reaffirm their commitment to supporting the freedom of artistic creation and expression. This is because one of the great strengths of cinema is its capacity to reach beyond borders and boundaries and to offer a critical and constructive viewpoint on the world and the excesses of today’s societies.
In the full statement, UniFrance also spoke of the film’s warm reception at Sundance (including how the festival awarded Doucouré with the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award) as well as the film’s wide reach, as it was originally deemed appropriate for all audiences. In addition to Sundance, Cuties was also honored at Berlinale while UniFrance itself highlighted Doucouré as one of the 10 French talents to watch on September 11.
In the U.S., Netflix’s botched marketing has sparked swift backlash in the form of an online campaign to boycott Netflix, which resulted in “sharp uptick” in cancelled subscriptions, according to USA Today. The outrage has been so robust and violent (Doucouré has received ceaseless death threats since Netflix release the trailer in August) that it has even reached the political sphere. Texas Senator Ted Cruz called for the Department Of Justice to actually investigate Netflix and the filmmakers to determine whether or not it violated federal child pornography laws based on a debunked trigger warning that falsely warned of nudity.
Doucouré eventually responded to the hate with an op-ed for The Washington Post, where she defended her work as a commentary on the same hypersexualization that her critics condemn. “We, as adults, have not given children the tools to grow up healthy in our society,”Doucouré writes. “I wanted to open people’s eyes to what’s truly happening in schools and on social media, forcing them to confront images of young girls made up, dressed up and dancing suggestively to imitate their favorite pop icon. I wanted adults to spend 96 minutes seeing the world through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl, as she lives 24 hours a day. These scenes can be hard to watch but are no less true as a result.”
UniFrance agrees, and hopes those crusading against the film will consider its actual intent. You can read the group’s full statement on THR. Cuties is currently available to stream on Netflix.